A mother’s love

May 27, 2009
Famous overseas singer Y Lan (L) with her mother, legendary singer Thai Thanh, who Lan says is her biggest blessing

Through all the hardships of her life, from leaving Vietnam in the 1980s to battling breast cancer in her fifties, overseas Vietnamese singing sensation Y Lan says it was her mother’s love that kept her strong.

Growing up with one of the Vietnam’s most famous singers for a mother, Lan was partially raised in the Saigon night clubs of the 60s and 70s.

As a young girl, she would help her mom, legendary singer Thai Thanh, pick out her costumes, and would often follow her into the dressing room before shows. She loved watching her mother sing.

“My mother is a loving, courageous woman. Her nurturing care, devotion and passionate love for her children have been a great inspiration to me, especially in raising my own children,” Lan says. “I really feel blessed to have my mom’s love.”

Born to Thanh and father Le Quynh, one of Vietnam’s first film stars, Lan was probably destined to become a performer.

“I inherited my voice and singing skills from my mother and performing skills from my father. I consider it a great blessing, not a pressure.”

But Lan didn’t seriously consider a singing career until she immigrated to the US at the age of 29 in the late 80s.

She says she couldn’t have done it without her mother’s support. Their bond remains tight, even though Lan is now in her 50s and has a family of her own.

“I’ve been always close to my mother, she shares my joy and sadness and has taught me well through her life stories.”

Thanh lives only two streets away from Lan, who picks her up for dinner almost every evening.

“This intimate bond is so important in my life, and now I have such a bond with my children. In my fifties, I still feel as if I was a child with my mother always by my side,” says the mother of six.

Coming home

Since 1998, Lan has been returning to Vietnam, using her success in the US to help her promote charity programs for orphans and disabled children here. But ever since she was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, her charity work has had another focus: medicine.

During a trip to Vietnam for a charity program held by the East Meets West Foundation almost one year ago, Lan was so sick she wasn’t sure if she’d ever be able to return to Vietnam.

But since then she’s bravely fought the disease into remittance and is set to return to Vietnam again to perform at the Van Nghe night club this weekend.

Though her local fans want to see her in big shows, she says she prefers the cozy atmosphere of the cabaret at 14 Lam Son Street in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Thanh District.

“Intimate shows are more my own, I have more time to sing directly to the audience. Standing onstage, I can sense the relationship between me and my fans,” Lan says.

“How big or small the show is makes no difference to me, each member of the audiences means a lot to me… Singing in cabarets and night clubs reminds me of following my mother as a child.”

Lan says she was disappointed at her last visit last year, as she was only able to perform at the expensive charity event, meaning that many of her fans didn’t get the chance to see her.

“I felt so uneasy not being able to sing to all my fans here. So I accepted the invitation to perform at Van Nghe this year right away.”

Lifelong passion

Lan’s mother, known as the “timeless voice” of Vietnam, taught her to sing at a young age.

Though all Lan wanted to do was sing, her parents made sure she focused on her studies. But she says her heart was always set on singing, though she never let herself try the profession until she was in America.

She quickly made a big name for herself in the overseas Vietnamese community for her renditions of beautiful songs by two of Vietnam’s eminent composers, Pham Duy and Trinh Cong Son. The songs, popular hits of the 60s and 70s, are still Lan and her mother’s focus, even as new modern pop becomes increasingly popular with younger Vietnamese.

Lan has released an astounding 60 albums over the course of her 20-year career and has performed all over the US and in France and Australia too.

Now Lan is passing on the same values her parents taught her to her own children.

“I always tell them, just like my mom did, to focus on their studies. But I’ll never stop them from singing!”

Reported by Da Ly

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